As justjophoto.com V 2.0 started to come together I was doing a lot of thinking about my photography. How far I’d come and from where it started. It brought me back to Green Bay Wisconsin, my Freshman year of high school and a night at Marquette Park where we use to hang out.
It was like that 70’s show. Well, it was the 70’s, in Wisconsin. At any rate, one night a class mate, Scott Streble, came by the park with a camera. A 35 mm SLR. It was the coolest thing I ever saw. It made an awesome sound when the shutter opened and closed. I fell in love with photography.
Scott was the yearbook photographer. When Sophomore year came along Scott introduced me to Mr. Walters, the teacher responsible for the yearbook, who actually let me take pictures. I had no idea how to load the film so he would load a roll, I would go out and shoot, bring the camera back, and he would swap in a new roll and send me on my way. That’s how it all began. (Some of my shots actually made it in the yearbook!)
I felt like I really wanted to do a shout out to Scott. I was pretty certain he had no idea the role he played in my journey. Rather than writing a post without his knowledge I thought I would do the right thing and have a conversation with him to see if I could put something together to show off what he’s up to.
My hope is that this is the first in a series of interviews. So here it is: My Candid Conversation with Photographer Scott Streble.
Scott’s first memory of photography was probably going to a portrait studio and getting his portrait taken at a very young age. Probably. He’s not really sure. What he is sure of is that when he was in the 6th grade the Librarian, Michael Barentine, ran a photography program and Scott was asked to work in the darkroom. The magic of the darkroom got to Scott and he can thank Mr. Barentine for nurturing that connection.
His path includes the usual suspects: Scott shot for the High School Yearbook, worked at a local portrait studio, went to RIT for school, and then landed at Image Studios in Appleton, Wisconsin. It was there he assisted on everything. The best training possible in order to sort out all of those things you want to do from those you don’t.
I learned a lot from Scott during our conversation. He’s a people person, I am not. When you look through his website you can tell that he has an extraordinary gift. There is gentleness in the way he approaches his subjects and makes the image. From rock stars to the homeless. They are all treated the same. I find that to be inspirational.
Photography is a means of communication. What do you feel you are trying
to communicate and to whom?
I guess it would be a sense of realism. I like the interaction with people just as much as I like the photography. The photography is a vehicle for me to meet interesting people. There is a reason for me to be there and take their photo. They have probably done something noteworthy. It’s just fun to be around all of that. When I take someone’s photo I really want the photo taking process to get out of the way and let the person just be themselves and do what they would normally do.
When I look at your images of people you are taking photos of people in difficult situations and your subjects look very much at ease. Do you have methods and ways of making people feel comfortable?
It’s about respect. I want people to realize it’s a collaborative event. They and I are making the picture. It’s not just me. I think I approach everyone with a sense of respect and dignity and people can sense that. Also, at this point in my career, I have confidence in my ability and people are more relaxed when they realize I am going to take a good photo of them. We both want a good photo no matter their situation and I need their help to do that. I make sure it’s about them and not me.
Is there any one subject that you shoot that gets you into the zone more than others?
That happens all the time. Specifically it’s the shoots where I have free rein of doing what I want to do. Making photos that I think look good. Early on in my career I thought I could be all things to all people. But then I realized it was not a good way to conduct myself. I’m guessing at what they want. So I decided that I was going to take the photos that I like and find clients that want the same thing.
How do you keep it fresh?
That’s a constant challenge. I’ve done jobs where I have had to shoot over 200 portraits in a day. I do a lot of high production work. Sometimes I’ll make some images just for myself. Things that the client may not use, but it makes it a bit more fun. For example, I was shooting at the Minneapolis Children’s Hospital. I was set up in a room to do some portraits and there were some interesting pipes along the wall so I shot them. Getting a new piece of gear also helps. It helps to be able to try new techniques.
What do you do on those days where you just don’t have it? Especially on a paid assignment?
There are safe pictures that I know will work that I can always lean back on. Most importantly I want the client to feel comfortable and I just start shooting. Eventually something clicks.
What do you find is the biggest challenge facing professional photographers today?
Getting work! [Cue the laughs] The industry is slowly going to video. There will always be still images, but video is where it’s at. If you look at young kids, my kids are 13 and 14, when they are on Instagram or YouTube it’s all about videos.
The other big challenge is the ability or the capacity for the public to accept photos that are mediocre or low quality. There has been a dumbing down of what’s acceptable. The professional photographer will be a diminished roll. When you have reporters who are shooting with their iPhones and the public is ok with that, that’s the reality.
It used to be with film you had to have technical chops. This is when I got into it. I loved the technical aspects of photography. Getting the equipment to do what you wanted it to do and understanding the translation of what you see to what the camera sees and now it’s less of a factor.
If you could give the young you some advice what would it be?
If you are going to get into a relationship get into one that totally supports what you are doing. [Cue the laughs] Assist with people whose work you admire. That is the best way to learn. And I probably wish I had learned video along the way too.
10. Color or Black and White? – Color
9. Film or Digital? - Digital
8. Traditional Darkroom or Digital Darkroom? – Digital Darkroom
7. Objects or People? - People
6. Urban Jungle or Pretty Landscapes? - Urban
5. Weddings or Root Canal? - Weddings
4. Kitted out with Heavy Long Lens or Holga? - Holga
3. Commercial or Fine Art? – Fine Art
2. Tell me about the one that got away. ---- There was the time I was shooting in an ER. A drunk guy with hole in the top of his nose arrived following a car accident. He was having a hard time breathing. He thought his nose was really congested so he plugged his nose and blew really hard and it sprayed blood everywhere. Everyone was sprayed with blood. Then the ED doc looked at me and said “Did you get that? That was your picture.” He was right. And I didn’t. I recoiled in horror like everyone else in the room.
1. Tell me about the one you are still chasing. ----- You know, I’ve photographed rock stars. You can see on my website that I’ve done a few, but I want to be the backstage documentary guy.
The Parting Shot
“I’m never really 100% pleased with any one photo I’ve shot. I always think there was something I should have done differently.”